A Trio of Hong Kong iNatters See a Lobster Caterpillar Moth Larva! - (Belated) Observation of the Week, 4/10/21

Our Observation(s) of the Week are all of this Lobster Caterpillar Moth (Stauropus alternus, 龍眼蟻舟蛾 in Chinese (traditional)), seen in Hong Kong by @pasteurng, @love3, and @pkyeung!

[This post took a week longer than usual because, after @pasteurng told me the above moth was actually found by @love3, I contacted her about it as well. She then told me @pkyeung was also there for the find, so I messaged him to get his part of the tale. - Tony]

Pasteur (@pasteurng -  below): I have been interested in nature for a long time. I mainly observed small insects such as butterflies and dragonflies before. Now also observe birds and other larger animals.

Lillian (@love3 - below): I have been interested in nature since I was a child because I lived in an outlying island in Hong Kong, where there is an abundance of plants and wild animals. However, at that time, taking photos was not as easy as nowadays because cameras were expensive and people didn't have smartphones.

I was more of an indoor person and seldom went hiking, but then a smartphone with camera function, which is a norm of today, changed my life. I started realizing the diverse biodiversity and the proximity of wildlife in my current neighborhood, which is a highly urbanized area in Hong Kong. For example, I spotted a Prosopocoilus oweni melli just right outside the window of a Marks & Spencer, which is pretty amazing.

PK (@pkyeung - below): After I retired a few years ago, I’ve had plenty of time to wander the hill slope and stream by my house. One day I found a Papilio butterfrly drinking water under the sunlight - it was beautiful. I started take photo of it from a much closer distance than I ever had before - less than an inch. After that I started taking photos of all kinds of insects and I like to get as close as possible.

Since the natural nature environment is so rich in Hong Kong, I also take photos of birds, fungi and plants.

Lilian: It is difficult for me, a layman, to identify any living organisms even with field guides (not mention there aren't many for Hong Kong), so I started to join wildlife groups on Facebook. In those groups, there are experts with different specialisms who can help me with the ids. I also joined different projects on iNaturalist because there are experts in these projects, too.

I know of the existence of iNaturalist because of Roger Kendrick (@hkmoths), who has devoted his life to moths in Hong Kong, because of his Hong Kong Moths project. Recently a Hong Kong Jellyfish project was created, and I started looking into the sea for jellyfish because of this project. I told my sister and she has started taking photos of jellyfish and realized that there are so many jellyfish near the pier.

The feeling of this is like playing Pokemon Go in reality. I want to complete my "record book", but I know that it will never be completed because new species are discovered every day around the world. This is amazing because I’ve found my interest for life. The City Nature Challenge is also an event that I love to participate in. It is challenging but fun because it somehow pushes me to explore different habitats that I may not have explored without this project.

PK: Pasteur and Lilian are my nature Facebook friends but I’ve never met them before before. Lilian wanted to search for Pyrops candelarius which, although commonly found in most areas, she had not photographed with her new camera. So it was our first time to gather and visit the popular Tai Po Kau  “Chung Tsai Yuen”, where people look for birds, insects and fungi.

Pasteur: The first person who found the Stauropus alternus was Lilian. She also likes small insects very much. Stauropus alternus looks like a common dead leaf, which makes it difficult to spot. The forefoot is very long like an ant's foot, and the the tail is very large. It looks like the Alien Queen!

Lilan: The caterpillar was found as we were about to leave the park. When I walked passed a plant, I saw something weird on the tip of a twig. It looked like a wet wilted brown leaf dropped from the trees above and randomly hanging on the twig due to the rain. I looked closer and saw this caterpillar feeding on the leaves. I screamed as I wanted to see this for a long time due to its bizarre appearance. I didn't expect that this relatively uncommon caterpillar can be found just on the side of a paved road in a park. I asked the two men to come back (above) and we were so happy to see this caterpillar.

PK: [Stauropus alternus] is one of [Lillian's] dream targets. It’s also the first one I’ve seen and photographed. We ended this outing with satisfaction and joy.

Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.

- What does this moth look like as an adult? To the iNat photo browser!

- I couldn’t find any videos of Stauropus alternus caterpillars, but here’s its relative, Stauropus fagi, in action.

- As his profile pic shows, Pasteur is a Hong Kong Country Parks Outstanding Volunteer. The program’s purpose, he says, is to “raise public awareness of protecting Hong Kong country parks through participating in management, education and conservation work of the country parks. It also offers valuable opportunities for nature lovers to serve society.”

Posted by tiwane tiwane, April 27, 2021 19:13



Love that line: "I screamed as I wanted to see this for a long time due to its bizarre appearance."
Another wonderful observation and narrative! Thanks for always sharing these. :)

Also, @k8thegr8 is quite fond of caterpillars -- she too will enjoy this.

Posted by sambiology 9 days ago (Flag)

Great to see some recognition towards Hong Kong iNatters, and recognition towards the fact that Hong Kong is pretty rich in biodiversity too!

Posted by robotpie 9 days ago (Flag)

After COVID, come visit Zhuhai some time! We have some interesting mountains.

Posted by pratyeka 9 days ago (Flag)

What an amazingly odd-looking Caterpillar!!! Great that you spotted it! Thank you!

Posted by katharinab 9 days ago (Flag)

What a great observation and story. I call things like this the back-to-the-car finds because so many great discoveries happen just as you leave for home.

Posted by driftlessroots 9 days ago (Flag)

It’s amazing! Well done for spotting it! I can completely relate to screaming because you’re so delighted - I’ve been known to tear up when I see something I’ve wanted to see for a long time 😆 What a great story, and I hope you have many more exciting finds!

Posted by lisa_bennett 9 days ago (Flag)

This sums up everything that is good about HK and iNat - a collegiate approach to finding, recording and understanding the country's species. Many of us do just the same - we wander our local patch and sometimes further afield and celebrate our finds and photographs and share them with our fellow naturalists, amateur and expert / professional. This is a lovely story and as someone who has also recently found and photographed the larva of Stauropus alternus I know exactly how Lilian felt even though it wasn't my first.

Posted by andrewhardacre 8 days ago (Flag)

This is the king of caterpillars!

Posted by jacalderwood 8 days ago (Flag)

Great looking critters!

Posted by k8thegr8 8 days ago (Flag)

Love this post and good to know PK Yeung (@pkyeung) is using iNat too.

He's one of the veterans of Hong Kong Wildlife and his knowledge on plants is magnificent!
Hopefully more and more experts would involve IDing and recording in the system. Together, let's build a biodiversity database for our beloved city!

Good to see the face of Love OSR (@love3) too!!

Posted by sunnetchan 8 days ago (Flag)

great to see some of Hong Kong's iNat community being featured - the faces behind the cameras. Also good to know that the time taken to maintain a focal point (the various iNat projects) is appreciated by the contributors as well. Feedback like this helps maintain the enthusiasm of the project admins!

Posted by hkmoths 8 days ago (Flag)

Such a wonderful collaboration of minds and interests! I am happy to hear people are getting out in nature more. Technology can expand our interests by making what scientists have always know to be fascinating! the details and diversity of NATURE! now the tools are available to many more people to SEE THIS bounty and Beauty!

Posted by ingrid_kaatz 8 days ago (Flag)

Strange caterpillar, long legs II and III are bizzare. Do you have a picture of the caterpillar "walking" ? Thanks for the nice observation.

Posted by jmmaes 8 days ago (Flag)

@jmmaes The video I linked to at the bottom has footage of a member of the same genus on the move.

Posted by tiwane 8 days ago (Flag)

What a wonderful caterpillar!

Posted by maccharlie 8 days ago (Flag)

thanks @tiwane, nice video. So the legs II and III are not to walk but part of the camouflage. Wonderfull !

Posted by jmmaes 7 days ago (Flag)

Wow!!!! What a funky looking thing! I love it! I love seeing all the wonderful things around the world, sharing information and amazing photos.
Wonderful story! Kudos!!

Posted by walkingstick2 7 days ago (Flag)


Posted by sunruikang 7 days ago (Flag)

Enjoy reading this post, like exploring in the nature like everyone at iNAT, can't wait to see more exciting finds during CNC week !!

Posted by agnestrekker 7 days ago (Flag)

What a weird-looking caterpillar! Well spotted, congratulations on this exciting find.

Posted by hildegard3 7 days ago (Flag)

Never seen anything like it before! Good job 👏

Posted by rangermyles 7 days ago (Flag)

I can feel your joy of finding this caterpillar. Congrats and thank you for sharing!

Posted by activateourgarden 7 days ago (Flag)

Congrats! Thanks for sharing your joy with us! Playing real life Pokémon Go is the best expression for the phenomenon which is called ‘scientific curiosity‘ ;)

Posted by greek_cicada_project 7 days ago (Flag)

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